It was late January 2014 and two local naturalists, Ian Edwardes and Paul Thompson, sat pondering their latest camera trap undertaking with the staff of the Kaeng Krachan National Park. The project had hit a few set backs in its first few months and the team, consisting of the two photographers and the magnificent KKNP team, led by Park Chief Khun Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn, were discussing how to best utilize the remaining time available. Khun Poon and Khun Suthat, of the KKNP team, had an idea to try for a secluded area of the forest on a peak between two valleys in the park's higher elevations.
It was a gamble but the site looked promising and a potential tapir scrape had been identified on the team's first recce.
The naturalists had wanted to camera trap the area primarily for leopard - they had just successfully completed a similar undertaking in the east of Thailand capturing images of a forest complex' rare wild tiger population. The presence of leopard and the outstanding vallied primary forests of Thailand's largest national park were a major draw for the pair. Kaeng Krachan represents one of the jewels in Thailand's splendid crown of national parks and sanctuaries as well as being the epicentre of the biologically significant Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex.
The Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex is of immense biological importance and located in the Indo-Malayan ecoregion. It is known to be rich in biological diversity as a result of being a meeting place of four zoogeographical subregions and four floristic provinces (Indo-Burmese/Himalayan, Indo-Malaysian, Annamatic, and Andamanese). Its importance to Thailand and to conservation cannot be denied and accordingly the process of potential World Heritage Site status began in 2011 when the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment submitted its details for consideration to the world body through the State Body Tentative List. It currently remains Thailand's only natural wonder on the Tentative List to date and it is considered by many naturalists to be the equal, at least, of those sites currently inscribed, namely: the Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuaries (inscribed in 1991) and; the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex (inscribed in 2005).
Its useful to consider what World Heritage Status means, as defined by UNESCO - "Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. "
and also of the criteria used, by the World Heritage Committee, to assess potential natural heritage sites:
1) to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;
2) to be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;
3) to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
And so the team found themselves sat in a surprisingly windy valley on a January morning deliberating what to do. They took a momentary on the spot decision to camera trap just one tree trunk in Khun Suthat's chosen location - one tree trunk that they thought may yield, just maybe, a passing tapir or leopard. And as the results from this lone stills camera are coming back, the team are all quite amazed by the results.
These results are a testement to the incredible bio-diversity of Kaeng Krachan National Park and the greater Forest Complex. And consequently to the recognition of importance of continued protection.
The team camera trapped one single spot in this particular location. A spot no more than 2 metres wide. No more than 2 meters high. One single sliver of forest, with a 2 square meter footprint in a forest complex of 5,000,000,000 square meters.
The resultant photographs alone are a significant indicator of the world heritage criteria: superlative natural phenonama; outstanding......significant.......communities of plants and animals; significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity.
Kaeng Krachan National Park and Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex represent an outstanding and significantly important area of bio-diversity - in the team's humble opinion it represents enough significance for World Heritage Status.
That two square meter spot yielded 23 terrestrial mammals including 5 wild cat species. Amazing bio-diversity.
We present some the photographs collected, at what the team have come to refer to as THE tree........ a single tree, in a single spot, on a single mountain side that represents the outstanding bio-diversity of the Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex:
- Leopard (Panthera pardus) Leopard (Panthera pardus)
- Sun bear F. (Helarctos malayanus) Sun bear F. (Helarctos malayanus)
- Sun bear M. (Helarctos malayanus) Sun bear M. (Helarctos malayanus)
- Leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) Leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis)
- Hog badger (Arctonyx collaris) Hog badger (Arctonyx collaris)
- Crab-eating mongoose (Herpestes urva) Crab-eating mongoose (Herpestes urva)
- Fea's Muntjac (Muntiacus feae) Fea's Muntjac (Muntiacus feae)
- Long-tailed giant rat (Leopoldamys sabanus) Long-tailed giant rat (Leopoldamys sabanus)
- Masked Palm Civet (Paguma larvata) Masked Palm Civet (Paguma larvata)
- Sumatran serow (Capricornis sumatraensis) Sumatran serow (Capricornis sumatraensis)
- Large Indian civet (Viverra zibetha) Large Indian civet (Viverra zibetha)
- Wild pig (Sus scrofa) Wild pig (Sus scrofa)
- Himalayan porcupine (Hystrix brachyura) Himalayan porcupine (Hystrix brachyura)
- Red-cheeked squirrel (Dremomys rufigenis) Red-cheeked squirrel (Dremomys rufigenis)
- Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus) Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus)
List of Species (documented passing THE tree in a six month period)
1) Leopard (Panthera pardus)
2) Sun bear (Helarctos malayanus)
3) Asian black bear (Ursus thibetanus)
4) Fea's Muntjac or Tenasserim muntjac (Muntiacus feae)
5) Indian muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak)
6) Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus)
7) Sumatran serow (Capricornis sumatraensis)
8) Leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis)
9) Large Indian civet (Viverra zibetha)
10) Yellow-throated marten (Martes flavigula)
12) Hog badger (Arctonyx collaris)
13) Crab-eating mongoose (Herpestes urva)
14) Masked palm civet (Paguma larvata)
15) Long-tailed giant rat (Leopoldamys sabanus)
16) Himalayan porcupine (Hystrix brachyura)
17) Asiatic Brush-tailed Porcupine, (Atherurus macrourus)
18) Wild pig (Sus scrofa)
19) Asian red-cheeked squirrel (Dremomys rufigenis)
20) Clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa)
21) Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti)
22) Asian golden cat (Pardofelis temminckii)
23) Moonrat (Echinosorex gymnura)